Arming officers and beyond

The first recommendation of the report issued by the Task Force on Campus Safety, released in late February, was to provide Portland State students, faculty and staff access to “sworn [police] officers” who have campus police training and who are available on campus for the PSU community.

But this was only the first recommendation of several meant to improve campus safety at PSU. The other recommendations listed in the report were suggestions that apply to three aspects of campus safety: the Campus Public Safety Office, access control on campus, and safety awareness and emergency preparation.

Jackie Balzer, chair of the Task Force and vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said she was proud of the work the Task Force did on the report, and added that PSU President Wim Wiewel thanked the Task Force for their hard work.

“I was very pleased with hard work on the part of the Task Force. All members were fully engaged in the process and were very thoughtful when writing the recommendations,” she said. “All members of the Task Force learned a great deal about PSU and campus safety via interviews, readings and forums, and this is reflected in the recommendations.”

For CPSO the recommendations include: maintaining non-sworn campus public safety officers on campus (in addition to sworn officers), establishing a permanent committee to consistently review the needs and best practices of campus safety at PSU, and providing safety presentations.

CPSO Chief Phil Zerzan agrees with the recommendations, stating that the first recommendation is “consistent with the setup of other universities in the United States.” He added that a permanent committee to oversee needs and best practices of campus safety “represents the future of law enforcement in the United States.”

As far as safety presentations go, Zerzan was in agreement with the idea.

“We do a lot of presentations—33 in 2013—but there should be more. Unfortunately, these presentations are resource driven. Patrol responsibilities overrule the presentations, and we don’t have the manpower to do more of them at this time.”

Michele Toppe, dean of student life, agrees with the recommendations set out in the report as well, especially in regard to having CPSO transition to an office with sworn officers as well was non-sworn officers.

“With our own campus police office we would have the opportunity to have our colleagues provide our campus safety, and that is very important to me, because my colleagues know our campus and our community,” she said. “I think of our CPSO officers as an extension of our student affairs office.”

In regard to access control on campus, the recommendations are: establishing business hours and regulating access to buildings where possible, establishing a goal of transitioning all exterior building doors to electronic access control, and recognizing the PSU identification card as both the only official form of PSU identification and the only method of electronic access control.

Zerzan said that some of these ideas are already being worked toward.

“In regard to access control, we’ve made tremendous improvements over the last year. We’re currently working on a project to have all the exterior doors on mainline buildings on campus on electronic access control,” he said.

“We’ve also been encouraging students to get the PSU identification/access card as their form of PSU identification.”

Toppe agrees that access control on campus is something to be addressed.

“Access is such a complex issue on our campus. People are accessing our buildings all the time for legitimate reasons,” she said. “[There are] solvable concerns around access control but they will require conversation and education and investing in it.”

The recommendations for safety awareness and emergency preparation include considerations to create a campus safety marketing campaign, as well as ways to better communicate expectations of staff and students in emergency situations. A requirement for all PSU employees to sign up for the PSU alert system was also recommended.

Zerzan said these are being worked on as well.

“For example, there have been measures put in place by [the Office of Information Technology] to assist with signing up for PSU alert,” he said, adding that a campus safety marketing campaign would be, “a civilian position that is a resource multiplier, getting more involvement from student groups, staff and faculty.”

Balzer said the next step for the Task Force is the open forum that will be held April 30, 2014.

To read the full Task Force report, visit